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No longer baseball; football now rates as America's pastime

Nov 4, 2008 5:06 PM

Burnt Offerings by Stan Bergstein |

The Long Night of Excess is over, and the country is either saved or lost.

Too much of a good thing is wearing and counterproductive, and the constant, unrelenting chatter of the same know-nothing prognosticators and sudden overnight authorities dulled the senses. The end of it all felt like the last blows of constant hammering on the head, or the screeching of chalk against a blackboard.

Television is a huge bore at best, and it wore out its welcome in the months just past.

It also can deliver moments of sheer beauty, however, and one of them in sports came in the last three minutes of the Texas-Texas Tech game last Saturday.

This game showed why, to this corner, football is the national pastime, not baseball. The battle and spirit and skill these two Texas rivals displayed in their unbelievable final quarter can’t be matched by the interminable delays of the diamond. I realize there are some who find the geometry of baseball fascinating, with the distances between bases and the pitcher’s mound and home plate and the outfield drawn with almost perfect precision.

But the empty spaces, the pitcher shaking off signals, the batters adjusting their caps and belts and wrist cuffs and cuds of chewing tobacco and the spitting that goes with it, are akin to caviar. It’s an acquired taste, and a huge waste of time.

To see the aerial views of huge packed football stadiums is impressive, and Texas vs. Texas Tech showed why those tens of thousands are there.

 It helps, of course, to have a baby-faced hero with a name like Colt McCoy, but Saturday was not his day.

 The final heroics belonged to his rival, handsome Graham Harrell, and after savoring assumed victory with a touchdown with a minute and 29 seconds left to play, McCoy stood, stunned, watching the unbelievable finish when Michael Crabtree grabbed Harrell’s pass, twisted away from two tacklers, and ran jubilantly into the end zone with one second remaining on the clock.

While the Texas-Texas Tech shootout laid claim to being the best college football game of the year, there was an awesome display of power in the South. It is hard to imagine anyone beating Florida as they gained revenge for a loss last year by destroying Georgia, 49-10. They were beating the team that was ranked first in the nation in pre-season rankings, and still was ranked eighth going into the Florida game. Georgia came out of it ranked 13th, and humiliated.

Which leads to the post-election debate, the annual November rant and rave about the Bowl Championship Series.

When the latest standings were announced Sunday, Alabama stood first and Texas Tech moved up to second, with idle Penn State third and Texas dropping from first to fourth. Florida is fifth, but the way they played Saturday it is hard to believe there are four better teams in America.

Tim Tebow showed why he won the Heisman Trophy last year and is likely to win it again this year, and why he will be a star in the NFL. He is big and powerful, and accounted for five touchdowns against Georgia with his passing and running.

Florida’s victory was a fascinating story of revenge. The Gators were the humiliated last year, when Georgia beat them 42-30 and Knowshon Moreno ran for 188 yards against them. Their strength and conditioning coach, Mickey Marotti, made certain they would not forget the defeat.

He put a picture of Georgia’s huge 2007 on-field celebration on each player’s locker, and assigned them 42 repeats at each station in the weight room, one for each Georgia point last year, and 188 pushups, situps and crunches, one for each yard Moreno gained against them.

They stopped Moreno cold this year, and dominated every aspect of the game

There is a lot of football left between now and the national championship game in Miami Jan. 8, and the Orange Bowl Jan. 1. It is unlikely that we will get to see Texas Tech play Florida, but after last weekend that meeting would make a logical national championship. Florida has averaged 44.7 points a game, Texas Tech 47. What a shootout that should be. Oklahoma and Southern Cal still have claims to file, but their losses, like Florida’s lone loss to Mississippi, will be costly. We are not sure that undefeated Penn State is good enough, but sentimentally it will be nice for Joe Paterno, an American coaching legend, if they wind up, as appears likely, in one of the major bowls.